Having a family that depended on my income I started with a few clients doing Made to measure clothing. They brought their fabric at the fabric store I managed & I made them what they wanted. The DC area has a wonderful immigrant population that was skilled in dressmaking & tailoring so I was able to find wonderful people with great sewing skills to help create the clothing.
Realizing that selling a Dress or suit was more lucrative than offering sewing services, I started buying Fabrics from the NY garment district. I would show a few sketches of designs that I thought would work for them & started getting sales ! I had gotten to understand my buyers, how they lived, what they liked & suggested designs that would look good on them.
People loved coming back to see me as they no longer needed to scour 14 different shops looking for something that would fit them in their style & size, plus with limited or 1 of a kind clothing they didn’t see themselves at every event ! I had the outfit they were wanting in their size, flattering color & design every time they came. The ease & convenience was addictive.
That was the very important lesson I learned early on was that it was important to create a design that the buyer would wear ! Some designers create for that wonderful perfect muse or imaginary abstract perfectly beautiful slim young Beauty Queen, I couldn’t afford to create the fantasy designs I saw in my dreams & wait to find a buyer to fit my vision.
The fact is that once the fabric is made into a garment it starts dating. Everyone wants the “Latest ” fashion ! Fabric is like artists paints, It has endless possibilities. It’ll make a new creation after it’s used. Plus I could not afford to make up a perfect size 4 or 6 sample from expensive fabrics that would get old after 1 or 2 seasons.
The other stroke of luck I had was meeting some Fashion Show coordinators. These ladies had connected with the local Country Clubs & would set up events there like a Luncheon fashion show for the club members. I had by then started making samples for limited edition clothing & added accessories that I bought wholesale. So they’d get modeling students or aspiring models to come and informally model my line at luncheon shows. It was a win win situation for all. The ladies loved having their friends for lunch while models showcased a local designer, the club made money charging for the lunches & I got exposure & sales ! We had shows at several DC area country clubs each season for several years until I felt comfortable opening a shop of my own along with “my sweetie pie”.
We did do some newspaper advertising & the best returns came from advertising in the Jewish weeklies. All my clients were wonderful & supportive & we formed close relationships. They brought their friends, had me create for family members & we felt included in their life’s important events. People no matter how rich, still only wanted to connect to nice people, so caring & being interested in them as people was the biggest building block of success.
I hope my little story is helpful to all the other dreamers out there. I never dreamed of being a household name like a Chanel or Armani. My dreams just had me designing dresses having people like them. I was fortunate in being able to support myself & my family, doing something I dreamed of !